Using other people's work

Fair use is a legal limitation on the exclusive rights of copyright owners. Use of copyrighted works without the copyright owner’s permission for the purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research is not copyright infringement.

The Fair Use Policy of Carnegie Mellon University requires members of the University community to comply with U.S. Copyright Law. When a proposed use of copyright material does not fall within the fair use doctrine and is not otherwise permitted by license or exception, written permission from the copyright owner is required to use the work.

While courts are the final arbiter of whether a particular use of a copyrighted work is a fair use, Carnegie Mellon expects members of the University community to conduct a fair use analysis prior to exercising their fair use right. If, after conducting a fair use analysis, you determine your proposed use qualifies as a fair use, you may use the work. You should document your fair use analysis for future reference, as a sign of your good-faith effort to ascertain whether the use is a fair use. If, however, you determine your proposed use does not qualify as a fair use, you must either seek the copyright owner’s written permission to use the work or find an alternative work to use that is allowed by license or no longer protected by copyright.

Conducting a fair use analysis entails consideration of:

  • The four fair use factors and their interpretation in relevant case law – see the Appendix to the Fair Use Policy of Carnegie Mellon University.
  • Applicable codes of best practices.
  • The Supreme Court has recognized that “the fair use defense affords considerable latitude for scholarship and comment,” but several caveats apply in practice:
  • Regardless of whether a particular use qualifies as a fair use, with rare exception publishers require the copyright owner’s written permission for any third-party material included in a work to be published.
  • Fair use likely provides sufficient protection for students including third-party materials in classroom presentations or submitted assignments, but the copyright owner’s written permission might be required for broader dissemination, for example, for posting the work on a website or depositing it in an open access repository, such as Carnegie Mellon’s KiltHub.

Law of Fair Use
U.S.C. Title 17 § 107.

Fair Use in Education and Research
Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University Libraries.

Summary of Ruling in Georgia State University Fair Use Lawsuit
by Carnegie Mellon University Libraries. (2012)

Summaries of Fair Use Cases
by Stanford University Libraries. (1984 – )

Fair Use Check List
Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University Libraries.

Fair Use Evaluator
Tool by Michael Brewer, American Library Association Office for Information Technology Policy.

Various communities have developed a code or statement of best practices to assist their constituencies in exercising their fair use rights. Courts often consider community practices in lawsuits involving fair use claims, but faculty and students should not confuse best practices with copyright law. The Law of Fair Use requires the consideration and balancing of the four fair use factors as they apply to the specific circumstances of each proposed use. See the Appendix to the Fair Use Policy of Carnegie Mellon University for guidance.

Code of Best Practices for Academic and Research Libraries (2012)

Code of Best Practices for Fair Use in the Visual Arts

Section 108 Spinner
Tool on U.S. copyright law for reproductions by libraries or archives for their users, for replacement, or for preservation.

Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study

Digital Image Rights Computator (DIRC)
Tool to help you understand the rights associated with an image and make informed decisions regarding the use of that image.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video (2008)

Remix Culture: Fair Use is Your Friend
Explains why the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video was created and how the Code can help you create online videos that employ fair use of copyrighted material.

Q&A on Fair Use
Stanford Law School’s experts answer questions about fair use. (2011)

Fair Use in a Time of Change
Constitutional lawyer and political activist Lawrence Lessig on copyright and the role and importance of fair use in the digital age. (2009)

Remix Culture
Tour of remix classics produced by Daniel Jones, Pat Aufderheide, and Peter Jaszi.

Re-examining the Remix
Lawrence Lessig on re-mix culture and how creativity is being strangled by the law. (2007)

Stephen’s Remix Challenge
Stephen Colbert does not want you to take his interview with Lawrence Lessig and remix it. (2009)

Embrace the Remix
Nothing is original, says Kirby Ferguson, creator of Everything is a Remix.

Copyright Education User Rights, Section 107 Music Video
by Michael Robb Grieco, Media Education Lab, Temple University. (2009)

Too Much Copyright
Ben Huh, CEO and founder of Cheezburger, on the disconnect between the ordinary citizen’s view and the copyright maximalist’s view of copyright and fair use. (2012)

Hitler orders DMCA takedown
Parody on fair use.

Hitler reacts to Downfall parody removals
Parody on fair use

A public display or performance is one that either occurs in a public place where people gather or is transmitted to the public, for example, via the Internet.

U.S. copyright law allows faculty and students to perform or display all types of work in the classroom, e.g., to recite poetry, read plays, show videos, play music, and project slides. It does not allow making copies or posting digital works on servers. See U.S.C. Title 17, §110(1).

Under the Technology, Education and Copyright Harmonization Act (a.k.a., the TEACH Act), it is not copyright infringement for teachers and students at an accredited, nonprofit educational institution to transmit performances and displays of copyrighted works as part of a course if certain conditions are met. If these conditions are not or cannot be met, use of the material will have to qualify as a fair use or permission from the copyright owner must be obtained. See U.S.C. Title 17, §110(2).

TEACH Act Toolkit
by Peggy E. Hoon, North Carolina State University.  Navigate the Toolkit using the options in the sidebar on the left.

TEACH Act Flow Chart
Scholarly Communications @ Duke.

If the right to use someone else’s copyrighted work in a particular way is not granted by copyright law or licensing agreement, you must acquire permission for the use, either through a licensing agency or directly from the copyright owner. Alternatively you could find another work to use, for example, a work in the public domain (copyright expired).

Collective Licensing Agencies
List of agencies that license rights to use printed, online, musical, dramatic, audio-visual, pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works, as well as software and syndicated materials. Copyright Policy, University System of Georgia

Introduction to the Permissions Process
Stanford University Libraries

Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University Libraries

Special Cases: Foreign Works and Orphan Works
Copyright Advisory Office, Columbia University Libraries